The arts were the focus of last weekend’s winter meeting of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.
The Corporation fellows, accompanied by the officers of the University, met with students, professors and administrators from the schools of Architecture, Art, Drama and Music. The weekend, which provided an opportunity for the arts schools to share their priorities and concerns with the Corporation, comes on the heels of a half-billion dollar plan to renew campus arts facilities and ongoing efforts to raise funds to increase financial aid to arts students.
“It was wonderful to see the tremendous talent of our students in each of these schools, and I think the Corporation is very inspired by the excellent programs,” University President Richard Levin said.
Architecture School Dean Robert Stern said that in his nine-year tenure, the Corporation had never before visited the school. He said he was thrilled that members of the Corporation devoted a significant amount of time to touring the Architecture School and to reading a detailed report Stern had written in advance of the meeting.
Stern said one of the most important topics of discussion this weekend was financial aid at the arts schools. Increasing financial aid is essential to securing a diverse student body and maintaining the status of Yale’s architecture program as one of the top in the nation, Stern said.
“Financial aid is a very serious problem,” he said. “We have made some progress, particularly in the last few years, but we still have a huge way to go. We had a frank discussion with the Corporation about the needs, which are immense.”
Last year, the School of Music received an anonymous $100 million donation that allowed it to eliminate tuition for all music students.
Stern said he hopes Corporation fellows are inspired to repeat this unparalleled act of largesse so the other arts schools can become tuition-free.
“I’m hoping they’ll immediately open their checkbooks and pour in billions,” Stern said.
Greg Anderson MUS ’08 said not having the burden of a tuition bill has had a tremendous impact on the quality of the Music School’s student body and has allowed students to concentrate on their musical pursuits.
“The free tuition allows us to be here and focus on our art and on our work,” Anderson said. “I know that would be just as useful for the students at the other schools. Because so few schools in the U.S. are free like this, it draws the highest-caliber students, and those students are usually pretty well set.”
Art major Angie Chamberland ’07 said the Corporation should address undergraduates’ financial concerns as well. She estimates that most art majors currently spend at least $700 out of pocket each semester on materials for their class projects.
Other arts students said they are frustrated by the location and availability of undergraduate arts facilities.
Architecture major Emily Appelbaum ’09 said she found it challenging to access pottery studios and other art spaces because they are dispersed throughout the residential colleges.
“A lot of colleges have great resources, but I think that they are severely underused because of the college system,” Appelbaum said.
Associate Dean of the School of Art Samuel Messer said space constraints were a concern the Art School shared in its meetings with the Corporation.
“We want more space to offer more classes, since we have demand to offer more classes, and we’re trying to find more space for undergraduates,” Messer said.
As part of the arts facilities renewal, the University is currently building a new facility to house the sculpture department, which will be used next year as a temporary home for the Architecture School as the acclaimed Paul Rudolph-designed Art and Architecture Building undergoes renovation.
While in New Haven, the Corporation also approved final funding for the Jonathan Edwards College renovation and the construction of a new History of Art Department building.